Slowly Taiwan is expanding its cinematic interests to other genres. A couple of years ago it was near impossible to find anything besides slow-paced, moody drama films, now other genres are emerging from Taiwanese shores. Do Over [Yi Nian Zhi Chu] can still be considered a drama film, but its definitely putting a more modern, slick and edgy style on display. Gone are the days of dreamy bike rides against the slopes of a green mountain covered in mist. Enter drugs, discotheques and murder.
Yu-chieh Cheng is a director with a background in commercials, and while those kind of directors are often looked down upon, they usually fare quite well in film land. Their storytelling skills might not be up to par, but they have a way of conveying emotions through images and sound that many home-bred film directors seem to lack. I guess you could say that Cheng is a 100% match to the stereotype, which should be a good indication whether the film will appeal to you.
The story of Do Over centers around a director having trouble completing his film. Do Over spans a period of 24 hours, following 5 stories related to the director. It's a pretty typical Pulp Fiction-type setup, with some jumping back and forth in time but with each segment told in a straight line. The stories are quite varied, ranging from some gangster drama and brotherly love to bored youngsters and blossoming love. Cheng does a good job of combining all these storylines and delivers a somewhat surprise ending, though original it is not.
From the first frames on it's obvious that Cheng is aiming for something more than your average drama film. The framing of the shots is exquisite, the use of color, even though not too in your face, marvelous, and the lighting often harsh but playful. Cheng doesn't neglect to make a visual statement with his first feature film. There's not a dull shot to be found, mixing quite a few styles and applying a rather broad range of cinematic tricks, without ever hurting the uniformity of the film. Quite impressive indeed.
His taste in music is equally nice. The soundtrack is composed of electronic-oriented background music draping a crisp, modern and yet dreamy atmosphere over the film. Especially the scenes driving around at night are some of the best in the field. Acting is all around solid, with some good performances. And with a rather large main cast, the absence of weak performances is quite a feat in itself.
Thematically the film is rather broad and the whole "director doesn't know how to finish his film" concept does come off as a little self-centric. On the other hand, Cheng leads his audience to a rather fulfilling finale and avoids coming off as too pretentious (though I guess that fully depends on how much you feel the film).
One thing is certain though. Cheng has style and he has a clear vision he wishes to share through his films. His addition to Taiwanese cinema (and cinema in general) is a very welcome one. Do Over is stylish, modern and sheds some light on the somewhat overlooked age group of 20/30-year olds, without having to resort to marginality or poverty. An interesting film, on many levels, and one that stayed with me for some time after the end credits had faded.